fundraising in a tough economy

I heard several people remark that this session was one of the best fundraising sessions they'd attended. Sheila Leary is terrifically frank and open. So too, were her panelists. Together they delivered a rich session covering practical advice for expanding fundraising programs, effective strategies for approaching grants and donors, and a few recent success stories from across the sector. We were also given a thorough presentation of Utah’s analysis and thinking leading to their decision to join the Colorado University Press consortium. Video = recommended viewing.

Key advice: Always be mindful that 5% of donors deliver 95% of dollars. Always build an endowment contribution into each major grant application. Major endowment builds take significant vision and long-term commitment—10 years to 15/20 years to complete. However, as architect David Burnam once said: “Make no little plans.” Big plans get folks excited. Seed monies for major projects/endowments are the hardest; but, once giving begins, behavior gives rise to behavior, more get involved, and targets are reached in accelerant fashion. Flexibility and creativity are key in crafting grants; tying salient aspects of current and future plans, programs, and operations into donors’ targets for support/giving = priceless.

The most impressive part of the session was Michael Spooner’s (Utah) breakdown of Utah’s scenario analysis leading to their decision to merge with Colorado. Faced with closing operations, Spooner and his managers worked up no fewer than six post-funding scenarios, projecting likely requirements and outcomes for each, and then weighed all options. To think most strategically under the circumstances, Spooner and his team realized early on that they needed to keep in mind that a u press does not belong to its staff and as a corollary that a press in fact belongs to its parent institution (the u). Keeping mindful of these parameters opened Spooner’s team up to greater adaptability amid quickly changing circumstances and allowed them to flesh out more options. Spooner’s explication of the scenario analysis gives us an amazing, clearly presented example of strategic thinking, analysis and leadership in difficult times. Any interested should check out the video.